Pros: Many, Many ways to earn and redeem miles
Cons: Limited flight availability
American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program provides customers with many opportunities to accumulate miles for free flights, free hotel stays, free merchandise, and much more. I have been a member of the AAdvantage program for the past seven years. For my loyalty, American Airlines has awarded me a free flight to Europe and a free flight to Mexico.
Establishing an Account:
You can setup an account with American Airlines by calling a toll- free number, or by visiting the web site. There is no charge to set up an account. If you set up your account on- line, they sometimes award you with miles, just for signing up. This varies from time to time, so you should check before you signup, to see if thay are making this offer.
American Airlines AAdvantage gives you several ways to earn miles. If you take advantage of all of these offers, you can earn a free flight in a short period of time. First of all, you can add an additional 4,000 frequent flyer miles to your account just by booking on- line. When you consider that it takes 25,000 frequent flyer miles to earn a free domestic coach- class flight in the 48 states, you can see how these additional 4,000 miles can really come in handy.
Another good way to earn miles is by signing up for the American Airlines AAdvantage credit card, through Citibank. You earn one frequent flyer mile for every dollar spent and there is typically a bonus miles offer, just for signing up, sometimes as high as 10,000 miles! The only drawback to this card is that it carries a $50 annual fee. Still, if you use your credit card for as many routine purchases as possible (and payoff your monthly balance, to avoid interest), your accumulated miles from purchases, along with the bonus miles for signing up, can quickly send you on your way toward earning a free flight, easily justifying the $50 annual fee.
Other ways to earn miles include car rentals (500 miles per rental); staying at certain hotels, like Holiday Inn (2.5 miles per dollar spent); AAdvantage Dining program (10 miles per dollar spent, at qualifying restaurants); Diners Club (12,000 miles for sighing up! plus one mile for each dollar you charge); MCI Worldcom (5 miles per dollar spent); Flowers.com (10 miles per dollar spent); even AADvantage Golf, which offers 1,000 miles to new members at any qualifying golf course in North America. There are many, many other ways to earn miles, too, through online banking, click rewards, American Airlines vacations, etc.
Now that you've got your miles, it's time to think about what you want to spend them on. Just like there are numerous ways to earn miles, there are also numerous ways to redeem them.
Most people try to rack up miles for free flights. It takes 25,000 for a free flight in the 48 contiguous United States; 30,000 for a free flight to the Caribbean or Mexico; 35,000 for a free flight to Hawaii; 40,000 to fly to Europe (off- peak season), and various other minimums. Since 25,000 is the minimum for a free flight, you should devise your mileage- earning strategy based on reaching the goal of at least 25,000.
The one strike against American is the limited availability for flights, when using your miles. They usually have only a handful of seats designated on each flight as award seating. You need to plan your free flight as far in advance as possible, to get the flight of your choice. If you don't plan correctly, there's a good chance that all available seats will be taken.
If you don't want to redeem miles for a free flight, you have several other options. You can cash in miles for free car rentals (10,000 will get you a 3- day rental with Alamo or Dollar); free stays at hotels; etc. You can even donate your miles to charity, to help kids in need.
A recent partnership with AOL has expanded the options for redeeming even further. You can now cash in miles in exchange for books, videos, cd's, magazine subscriptions, and so forth. This is a good feature for someone who has a small number of miles, and has no intention of flying with American again. Instead if just throwing away your miles, you can cash them in for some free merchandise. I don't recommend this, if you plan on continuing to fly with American. The free flights are worth the extra wait.
American Airlines frequent flyer program is solid, and it's the plan I have used the most in my 12 or so years of flying. I like having so many opportunities to earn miles. I take advantage of all that I can, to rack up the number of miles in my account. I estimate that about 60% of my total frequent flyer miles that I have earned, since joining the program, have been from credit card, dining, car rentals, hotel stays, etc. Only about 40% of my miles have come from actual flight miles.
If you play your cards correctly, you can really take advantage of the American AAdvantage plan. A little bit of planning and determination, and you will be well on your way to earning free flights, free vacation- related items, or free merchandise. Set up an account, and watch your miles soar!